Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Cul de sacs of life and the insane at the wheel

Ecclesiastes has always been one of my favorite books of scripture. I read it entirely differently now than I was taught to read it. Before, I was taught to read it as the "before" in the testimony of Solomon. The "after" was the last couple of verses.

I read it now as all "after," meaning, the thoughts are those of an enlightened man, not some fool with a bad attitude and whom hasn't "met Jesus." The Solomon of the fist chapter had already encountered God in a very real way. But his observations about life were precise.

Now, on this side of my personal rabbit hole experience (as in Alice and the rabbit hole) I identify with Solomon much better. I feel the beat of his heart like never before.

Some of my favorite (and previously confusing) verses are from the end of the first chapter:

16 I thought to myself, "Look, I have grown and increased in wisdom more than anyone who has ruled over Jerusalem before me; I have experienced much of wisdom and knowledge." 17 Then I applied myself to the understanding of wisdom, and also of madness and folly, but I learned that this, too, is a chasing after the wind.

18 For with much wisdom comes much sorrow;
the more knowledge, the more grief.

This is the cul de sac I was speaking of. When you, one day, come to your senses and see the madness, you start to think and follow the truth like a torch. It first takes you out of the labyrinth with a great hope that the truth will set you free. But before long, you find yourself going against the flow of humanity more and more and the path becomes more lonely . . . until you reach the cul de sac . . . as I think Solomon did.

For me, there is no hope of that Christian utopia that I had always dreamt of. There is only confusion and further isolation.

You look over at the open ended freeway and you see the "Jesus Bus" full of happy people smiling and laughing and enjoying each others' company . . . but . . . the mad hatter is at the wheel.

I know the hatter is there because I've been listening to the Christian radio station this week (my binoculars into my Evangelical past) and the things I hear are truly mad. The sky is falling because Obama (the Muslim) is in power, Jesus is almost here, we are all going to die or be raptured any minute . . . Bush was our saint . . . Iraqi war was a good thing . . . please give a donation . . . global warming is part of the conspiracy . . . please give a donation . . . if you are one of those rare people who really do love God . . . then give a donation because God is behind this radio station . . . God told me these words this morning. And, just last night I heard a discussion with the president of the Southern Baptist Convention that "America got off course during the 60s. Before that we had a decent Christian country." He has no clue about history or culture. I wouldn't trade today's America for the one of the 1950s for anything.

I guess I feel this cul de sac more acutely this morning because of my animation, which I shared last time. I worked pretty darn hard on that. I wanted to see what it was like to peel back the layers of facade and pretending and see what a truly honest conversation between a post-evangelical and the evangelical pastor. I shared that video clip with several of my friends. The response . . . total silence. Nothing. Silence is the form of communication I hate the most because it carries no meaning. But my sense is, until I know better, that the shock of it made them speechless.

I see myself alone, in the cul de sac.

I use to get great comfort in imonk. I know others have brought this up on the forum (or at least in private e-mails) but I sense a change in course since the loss of Michael. Now, it seems to be more orthodox and "establishment." That is only to be expected. I mean, a blog can only take on the thoughts and personality of those who are writing it.

But I went back and re-read some of Mike's book. Maybe my memory had deceived me. As I read my late friends words I did sense that attitude of Jesus out of the establishment box. He seems to be open to people coming to terms with Jesus outside the bus.


Sixwing said...

I wonder sometimes, when I come to the cul-de-sac, if I should not go entirely off the road.

After all, what good does it do if I can no longer move forward?

Amusingly, my Captcha is "manjump." Yes indeed, Captcha.

Johan said...

Yeah, I'm with you in the observed change on Internetmonk. I don't read all items anymore, as I did before.
I also read Michaels book, and loved his perspective.
As I think I told before: I've been out of sunday morning church for almost three months now, and no intention to return. And I can say I have learned more about the unconditional love of God, the death and resurrection of Christ and its application to my struggles, and about myself and the things I can and cannot change, than in many months before.
This is a journey that requires some courageous choices, and for me the choice was leaving.
Luckily I have friends on the same journey, inside or outside the church, which may be due to the fact that I live in the 'liberal' Netherlands instead of in your corner of the world!
Still, I wish you clarity of vision about the journey you're on, and the way to go, inside or outside the bus.

MJ said...

I like that thought of going off road. I drive a jeep anyway:>) But I know what you mean.

MJ said...

I like that thought of going off road. I drive a jeep anyway:>) But I know what you mean.

MJ said...

Thanks for your thoughts Johan. I think that must make a big difference, having someone on the same page as you, who is there in living flesh.

Yet, I feel that even I am in a much better place than many. There's a lot of people who are disillusioned with Evangelicalism (or name your movement) and they assume that they are disillusioned with God. I'm at least thankful that I know better. Yet, tempted to envy both your companionship and . .. may I say . . . more liberal location. But my area of the U.S. was first settled by the Dutch. We even have a windmill (non functional) and dikes (functional) near here.

Johan said...

Well, I think mainly the more conservative religious elements migrated ...
And you are right that it's a blessing to seperate the disillusionement in religion from disillusionement in God. That's what I love about your blog: it's about the search for truth behind the facade.


Anonymous said...

God told me these words this morning.

Ever notice that "God's words" only approve without reserve whatever these guys are doing?

And, just last night I heard a discussion with the president of the Southern Baptist Convention that "America got off course during the 60s. Before that we had a decent Christian country." He has no clue about history or culture. I wouldn't trade today's America for the one of the 1950s for anything.

He's not talking the Real 1950s. He's talking the Godly Golden Age where Church Attendance Peaked in America, a Mythic 1950s According to Ozzie, Harriet, and Donna Reed.

Remember the three axioms of a Grievance Culture:

1) Once WE were Lords of All Creation, and Everything Was Perfect.

2) Then THEY came and took it all away from us.

3) It's Payback Time!

Headless Unicorn Guy

Eagle said...

Who here want's to go back to the 1950's? That was when the US had real strong Christian values!! It was also when there was racial segregation, people lived an even greater facade, Blue Laws were more in effect (meaning that the evangelical in Virginia couldn't get drunk at a bar...but had to do it privately in his home...), etc... Yes let's return to those times...it's about time we got real about our faith and told Rosa Parks to get back into the back of ths bus where she belongs!

When you showed your video to your freinds who respond with silence I can relate. I have lost freinds from church over telling them about my own personal doubts. Some don't know what to say, and of course I heard the "oh you just want to sin and chose to walk away from God."

Isn't evangelical Christianity beautiful?


Anonymous said...

Since two months I discovered
your blogs by the blogs from Johan, I'm also dutch.
Your journey seems a bit like mine.
After a lot of doubts and questions books from R.F.Capon made me drift away from the evangelical church.
Old evangelical friends didn't understand my changed views, so the gap became bigger.
Some reactions in your video I recognised to well.
At first I was afraid, that in this 'loneliness' my trust and faith in God would shrink, but it didn't.
It grew and the convincion that the choice, how difficult as it was, was the right one.
At this moment,most of the people around me aren't christians, but they are often so much more open minded and tolerant.
In the meanwhile I keep looking for a church in the meaning of Capon; the church has only to be 'the hat' of Jesus; showing His love and forgiveness.

I also notice the change on Imonk.
But luckely there are your writings...

MJ said...

I will have to look up Capon. I don't know anything about him or his writings. I'm always eager to discover new authors.

Anonymous said...

If you want to taste some of Capons ideas, you can read;
iMonk Classic: Out of Business with God.
The books of Capon are not always easy read and are often provoking,
He is frequently 'hammering' on Gods free gift of grace.
I think you will like a lot of his writing.
you won't find his books in christian bookshops,not even in Holland ..